“You’re not going to lose your job, are you?”
As United Review editor, I must have been asked that a dozen times – probably more – since the announcement in June that Football League clubs will no longer be obliged to produce matchday programmes.
United aren’t an EFL club, of course, but the news was widely interpreted to be about football programmes generally, not just the 72 clubs in the Championship to League Two. Thankfully there was no such threat of United Review not being on sale at Old Trafford for the opening night of the season – news I happily passed on to those who’d concernedly enquired.
The EFL decision came as little surprise, with there being cheaper ways of providing content at a time when programme sales are generally on the decline. Yet still clubs continue to look for ways to evolve their printed matchday offering. Oxford United this week announced that they will be producing two versions of their programme this season: one for home fans, and a variation for away supporters. Colchester United are giving away their programme to every fan as part of their match ticket. Others will trial ways of doing things differently.
Our club has had a programme since railway workers started playing competitive matches as Newton Heath (LYR) Cricket and Football Club in the early 1880s. It was little more than a teamsheet back then, but United Review has existed in various formats since 27 August 1932.
Sales peaked in 1968 when a record 74,000 copies of the programme were sold for the visit to Old Trafford of Argentina’s Estudiantes in the Intercontinental Cup, surpassing the previous record of 60,462 for our European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid earlier in the year. Those were the days of tokens being included in the programme, which when collected gave access to tickets for away games and cup semi-finals and finals.
'Take me home!' Gallery
Flick through 19 unique and recognisable sights of Old Trafford on matchday.
Every summer we ponder what to do next with ‘the Review’ and this time we felt it was time for a refresh. The size has stayed the same, but the look and presentation of content has been developed in a way that’s – we believe – more suited to the way fans read the programme at the match or on the way home.
We’ve given a lot of thought to how fans enjoy the programme at the match and on the go. Gone are the days when you’d pay into the ground two hours before kick-off and read the programme stood in your favourite spot on the Stretford End. So we’ve presented the features in a way that makes it easier to find something to catch the eye. Each feature is now identified by a number at the top of the page to help navigate your way through, with the mix of shorter reads and longer in-depth articles adjusted to be more matchday friendly.
A Manchester United home game wouldn’t quite be the same without United Review as a part of it. Whether bought as a souvenir, purely for reading matter, or to continue a collection, the programme remains part of the match-going experience for many fans.
If you’re at the game tonight, why not pick up a copy and let us know what you think? Email your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.